I am the I in IWK – Joyce Ledwidge

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Joyce Ledwidge has spent three decades of her career at the IWK. As a dietitian, she has worked in metabolics, nephrology, cardiology and for more than 20 years, neonatal intensive care.

Ledwidge spends four to five mornings each week doing rounds and visiting patients, assessing their needs with colleagues and identifying any changes since her last visit. Making sure that the IWK’s youngest patients are being nourished appropriately is Ledwidge’s top priority.

“It’s important that we ensure that the babies that come through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [NICU] get the very best nutritional care possible as they start off on their journey in life, which is often a little bit rocky,” says Ledwidge. “As a neonatal dietitian, my goal with the team is to make sure we are nourishing babies the absolute best that we can to give them the best start at life.”

In her role as the sole neonatal dietitian at the IWK, Ledwidge has also helped advance care and improve practices not only at the IWK, but across Atlantic Canada. As part of her role, she connects with care teams across the region to collaborate on protocols and practices, and establish benchmarks.

“Being able to network with colleagues and peers has been huge. Being able to talk to each other and find out what’s been going on in different centres is so valuable,” says Ledwidge.

During her tenure in NICU, Ledwidge has also been a part of internal advances, including the creation of a donor milk program. Now an ingrained part of care, the donor milk program at the IWK began less than 10 years ago after a unique patient case.

“We had a case where twins were born eight days apart at less than 28 weeks gestation. The first little guy born was quite ill, and we really wanted to be able to feed him but couldn’t have mom’s milk yet because she was still carrying the other twin. As a team, we had been talking about donor milk previously because it was becoming more and more evident in the literature that this was a good thing to do, so we went ahead and we did it,” remembers Ledwidge. “That led to us establishing criteria for the use of donor milk, creating guidelines, using it routinely and opening our dedicated breast milk preparation room. In 20 years, there have been a lot of advancements in neonatal nutrition and I’m really happy to have been a part of making donor milk available.”

With many successes behind her, and retirement in front of her, Ledwidge feels proud to have called the IWK home for so many years.

“The fact that the IWK has remained an independent entity really highlights the importance of women, children and families in our society, and I’m really proud of that,” says Ledwidge. “I love being around people that have the common goal of trying to do the best job to help women, children and families. And when you work in a place where people have that common goal, it just makes you feel at home.”